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Anne M. Eberhardt

Ohio Voters OK Casinos; Beshear Wants Action

Ohio voters approved non-racetrack casinos in a Nov. 3 referendum.

Ohio voters Nov. 3 approved casinos on the fifth try by gambling supporters in the past two decades, and Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear immediately issued a statement saying Kentucky must respond.

The Ohio referendum, which passed by a 53%-47% margin, authorizes privately-run casinos in the state's four largest cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo.The ballot measure didn't state when the casinos would be built or whether they would be built in all four cities.

The Ohio horse racing industry, which has pushed for racetrack video lottery terminals, opposed the casino measure, titled Issue 3. The Ohio Supreme Court still hasn't ruled on whether the Ohio Lottery, under order of Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, has the authority to implement VLTs at tracks without legislative action.

In Kentucky, the racetrack VLT issue is expected to figure prominently during the 2010 General Assembly session. Beshear Nov. 4 issued a statement on the Ohio developments and what he wants to see happen in neighboring Kentucky.

“Clearly, the time to act on expanded gaming is now," Beshear said. "Ohio citizens are going to reap the benefits of thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.Ohio’s decision reinforces the urgency to pass the video lottery terminal bill I proposed earlier this year.

"Kentucky citizens deserve to keep those dollars at home and see the real and immediate benefits in our economy--supporting our schools and building our roads. Time is of the essence, and we can’t afford to wait any longer.”

A major supporter of the Ohio constitutional question on casinos was Penn National Gaming Inc., which operates the successful Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, Ind. Observers in Ohio have questioned whether PNGI would build a casino in nearby Cincinnati.

The Lawrenceburg casino riverboat also draws heavily from neighboring Kentucky.